The viola plays at a deeper tonal quality than the violin and is regarded as an alto string instrument in contrast to the violin's soprano. Violas measure around 16 inches, approximately 2 inches longer than a standard violin. This modest size difference produces a richer, mellower sound than the violin.
The lowest, thickest string on a viola is the C string. This string should always be tuned first to prevent damaging the A and D strings, which are much thinner and more fragile. On a properly tuned piano, the tone of this string should match that of the C key just below middle C.
Using the G below middle C on the piano, bring the G string, located next to the C string, into tune. This key is in the third octave and is the third G key from the left side of the piano keyboard.
Tune the D string, next to the G string, according to the D beside middle C on the piano. This key is located in the fourth octave and is the fourth D key from the left side of the keyboard.
The last and highest string on the viola is tuned to the A above middle C, also found in the fourth octave. This key is the fifth A from the left side of the piano keyboard.
Gradually tighten up each string in the sequence C-G-D-A. Tighten only one to two notes higher at a time on a single string. Once a string is in tune, move on to the next. Do not tighten one string while permitting the other three strings loose to remain loose or unequal force will be applied to the bridge, which may result in damage. Tuning the viola causes movement in the strings, which can sway the bridge. Keep the bridge perpendicular to the viola surface at all times. Where the bridge makes contact with the strings, it should be kept completely straight and not allowed to tilt. Remember that only the tautness of the four strings holds the bridge in place; no adhesives or screws connect it to the viola.
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